Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority boss Joe Calabrese, in a statement Friday, fought back against "certain circles" who have been predicting, in apocalyptic terms
, the demise of the Rapid's Blue and Green Lines.
"Many of the same individuals who are continually asking RTA to expand the rail are now sounding the alarm about RTA’s ability to maintain the existing rail network into the future!" Calabrese shouted into the digital wind.
But Calabrese has maintained that he will not abandon the rail lines, despite their high cost and inadequate funding from the state and federal government.
Reiterating RTA's commitment, Calabrese said that the transit authority's capital plan will invest $110 million in rail over the next five years. And they will continue to explore alternatives to shutting down the east side's cherished community assets.
"RTA is not only verbally committed to maintaining its rail network, but is actively working on it!" Calabrese once again indicated the intensity of his conviction with an exclamation point.
The only viable solution currently offered, however, is replacing "some" of the fleet rather than the whole fleet by 2025. Short of that, Calabrese and co. are just looking for increased public and private-sector support.
"This support...has grown in recent years, as projects such as the Downtown Trolleys, the HealthLine and the Cleveland State Line have resulted in tremendous success, not just for the riders, but for the local economy, as well," said Calabrese. "The goal is now to leverage that support."
Support is necessary because replacing the rail cars is extremely expensive, roughly $4 million per. Calabrese said he'd like to find funding for 70 of them
($280 million in total) and the current finances available just won't cut it. Rail riders, by the way, represent just 19 percent of RTA's total customers, but rail costs account for 45 percent of its budget.
But in Friday's statement, he strongly stated once again that he had no plans to abandon rail. And he reminded critics, by the way, that Cleveland's rail cars aren't nearly as old as those in use elsewhere around the country.
"For example, several fleets of rail cars in New York, New Jersey and Boston, which are operated in daily service, were built in the 1960s," Calabrese said. Wait for it: "Many streetcars around the nation, especially in San Francisco, were built at the turn of the century!"